Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Spice box

W. R., London (ca. 1602)
British, London
L. 5 3/8 in. (13.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1968
Accession Number:
Not on view
The intricate ornament on this scallop-shaped box reflects the late Elizabethan taste for Antwerp Mannerism; indeed, many specialized workers active in London’s goldsmiths’ trade came from the Spanish Netherlands. Although shell-shaped boxes such as this one are sometimes referred to as spice boxes, according to early seventeenth-century inventories, they were used for serving sugar, an expensive delicacy. The English often sweetened their wine with sugar or honey, a habit that persisted through the seventeenth century.
Marking: [1] Leopard's head (London assay office mark);
[2] Lion passant (English quality mark for sterling);
[3] Gothic E in pointed shield (date mark for 1602-03);
[4] WR with two arcs below in shaped shield (maker's mark).

Location of marks:
[1]-[4] inside on bottom and inside cover near hinge.

Marks greatly disfigured.
[ S. J. Shrubsole ; to Irwin Untermyer, March 25, 1968 ] ; Irwin Untermyer (in 1968; to MMA)
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